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THE DEFINITION AND SELECTION OF KEY COMPETENCIES
Executive Summary

Mep_interieur

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which does not limit PISA to assessing students’ curricular and cross-curricular competencies but also asks them to report on their own motivation to learn. with the aim of monitoring the extent to which students near the end of compulsory schooling have acquired the knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society. solve and interpret problems in a variety of subject matter areas. . OECD member countries launched the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). mathematics. The assessment of student performance in selected school subjects took place with the understanding. science and problem solving. The OECD’s Definition and Selection of Competencies (DeSeCo) Project. which will enable countries to monitor their progress in meeting key learning objectives. with design and reporting methods determined by the need of governments to draw policy lessons. ● ● ● PISA assessments began with comparing students’ knowledge and skills in the areas of reading. that students’ success in life depends on a much wider range of competencies. which is summarised in this brochure. Driving the development of PISA have been: ● Its policy orientation. though. provides a framework that can guide the longer-term extension of assessments into new competency domains. reason and communicate effectively as they pose. beliefs about themselves and learning strategies.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 3 Executive Summary 3 PISA AND THE DEFINITION OF KEY COMPETENCIES In 1997. and Its regularity. Its relevance to lifelong learning. Its innovative “literacy” concept concerned with the capacity of students to analyse.

attitudes and values. What do these demands imply for key competencies that individuals need to acquire? Defining such competencies can improve assessments of how well prepared young people and adults are for life’s challenges. rooted in a theoretical understanding of how such competencies are defined. as well as identify overarching goals for education systems and lifelong learning. Help individuals meet important demands in a wide variety of contexts. the OECD has collaborated with a wide range of scholars. but it would be of limited practical value to produce very long lists of everything that they may need to be able to do in various contexts at some point in their lives. For example. It involves the ability to meet complex demands. individuals need for example to master changing technologies and to make sense of large amounts of available information. They also face collective challenges as societies – such as balancing economic growth with environmental sustainability. Why are competencies so important today? Globalisation and modernisation are creating an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. experts and institutions to identify a small set of key competencies.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 4 4 The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies OVERVIEW What Competencies Do We Need for a Successful Life and a Well-Functioning Society? Today’s societies place challenging demands on individuals. Each key competency must: ● ● ● Contribute to valued outcomes for societies and individuals. requiring more than the mastery of certain narrowly defined skills.” OECD Education Ministers . practical IT skills and attitudes towards those with whom he or she is communicating. Through the DeSeCo Project. skills. who are confronted with complexity in many parts of their lives. To make sense of and function well in this world. Individuals need a wide range of competencies in order to face the complex challenges of today’s world. the ability to communicate effectively is a competency that may draw on an individual’s knowledge of language. the competencies that individuals need to meet their goals have become more complex. In these contexts. and Be important not just for specialists but for all individuals. A competency is more than just knowledge and skills. and prosperity with social equity. “Sustainable development and social cohesion depend critically on the competencies of all of our population – with competencies understood to cover knowledge. by drawing on and mobilising psychosocial resources (including skills and attitudes) in a particular context.

individuals need to be able to engage with others. multidisciplinary approach to defining a set of key competencies In late 1997. . learn from experience and think and act with a critical stance. This project. The following pages look first at the demands of modern life and how they lead to this framework.g. brought together experts in a wide range of disciplines to work with stakeholders and policy analysts to produce a policy-relevant framework. and since they will encounter people from a range of backgrounds. in an Act autonomously increasingly interdependent world. second at the details of the framework itself and third at how the framework can be used both to inform the assessment of educational outcomes and for wider purposes. individuals need Use tools Interact in to be able to use a wide range of tools for interactively heterogeneous interacting effectively with the environment: (e.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 5 Executive Summary 5 Key Competencies in Three Broad Categories The DeSeCo Project’s conceptual framework for key competencies classifies such competencies in three broad categories. Producing this framework: How the OECD developed a collaborative. First. the OECD initiated the DeSeCo Project with the aim of providing a sound conceptual framework to inform the identification of key competencies and strengthen international surveys measuring the competence level of young people and adults. language. These categories. are interrelated. The project acknowledged diversity in values and priorities across countries and cultures. carried out under the leadership of Switzerland and linked to PISA. yet also identified universal challenges of the global economy and culture. it is important that they are able to interact in heterogeneous groups. but also the ability to deal with change. They need to understand such tools well enough to adapt them for their own purposes – to use tools interactively. groups technology) both physical ones such as information technology and socio-cultural ones such as the use of language. and collectively form a basis for identifying and mapping key competencies. individuals need to be able to take responsibility for managing their own lives. Second. as well as common values that inform the selection of the most important competencies. Third. Individual OECD countries were able to contribute their own views to inform the process. each with a specific focus. The need for individuals to think and act reflectively is central to this framework of competencies. Reflectiveness involves not just the ability to apply routinely a formula or method for confronting a situation. situate their lives in the broader social context and act autonomously.

rather than to the collective capacities of organisations or groups. equity and human rights • Ecological sustainability • • • Individual competencies Institutional competencies Application of individual competencies to contribute to collective goals . What competencies do they need to find and to hold down a job? What kind of adaptive qualities are required to cope with changing technology? However. What demands does today’s society place on its citizens? The answer needs to be rooted in a coherent concept of what constitutes key competencies. Thus. both as individuals and as a society. Individual and collective goals and competencies Success for individuals Including: • Gainful employment. as well as relating to key features and demands of modern life. not just to cope with it. income • Personal health. but by careful consideration of the psychosocial prerequisites for a successful life and a well-functioning society. the sum of individual competencies also affects the ability to achieve shared goals. However.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 6 6 The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies A BASIS FOR KEY COMPETENCIES Competence and the demands of modern life Key competencies are not determined by arbitrary decisions about what personal qualities and cognitive skills are desirable. The framework described here relates to individual competencies. safety • Political participation • Social networks Require: Success for society Including: • Economic productivity • Democratic processes • Social cohesion. This demand-led approach asks what individuals need in order to function well in society as they find it. competence is also an important factor in the ways that individuals help to shape the world. competencies are also determined by the nature of our goals. as illustrated in the diagram below.

key competencies are those of particular value. deemphasises those competencies that are of use only in a specific trade.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 7 Executive Summary 7 Individual and global challenges Individuals need to draw on key competencies that allow them to adapt to a world characterised by change. Common values as an anchor Insofar as competencies are needed to help accomplish collective goals. These values imply both that individuals should be able to achieve their potential and that they should respect others and contribute to producing an equitable society. as set out above. and it is these transversal competencies that are defined as key. The competency framework is thus anchored in such values at a general level. Societies are becoming more diverse and compartmentalised. means that they should apply to multiple areas of life. However. that competencies should bring benefits in a wide spectrum of contexts. These competencies need to be appropriate for a world where: ● ● ● Technology is changing rapidly and continuously. with interpersonal relationships therefore requiring more contact with those who are different from oneself. complexity and interdependence. and increased social and political engagement. but also brings key individual and social benefits such as better health. applies in relation to measurable benefits for both economic and social purposes. Emphasis is given to transversal competencies that everyone should aspire to develop and maintain. improved well being. All OECD societies agree on the importance of democratic values and achieving sustainable development. in political engagement and so on. Recent research reinforces the view that human capital not only plays a critical role in economic performance. The second condition. Selecting key competencies The above demands place varied requirements on individuals in different places and different situations. . Thus. that key competencies should be important for all individuals. The third condition. the selection of key competencies needs to some extent to be informed by an understanding of shared values. that competencies should be valued. and actions are subject both to influences (such as economic competition) and consequences (such as pollution) that stretch well beyond an individual’s local or national community. The first of these conditions. better parenting. Globalisation is creating new forms of interdependence. certain areas of competence are needed not only in the labour market but also in private relationships. and learning to deal with it requires not just one-off mastery of processes but also adaptability. occupation or walk of life. that have multiple areas of usefulness and that are needed by everyone. This complementarity of individual and collective goals needs to be reflected in a framework of competencies that acknowledges both individuals’ autonomous development and their interaction with others.

relate it to other aspects of their experiences. it is worth noting the underlying features reaching across all of these categories. creative. reflectiveness allows individuals to then think about this technique.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 8 8 The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies THE FRAMEWORK Underlying characteristics of key competencies A framework of key competencies consists of a set of specific competencies. At the centre of the framework of key competencies is the ability of individuals to think for themselves as an expression of moral and intellectual maturity. self-directed and self-motivated. having applied themselves to mastering a particular mental technique. creative abilities and other psychosocial resources such as attitudes. and to take responsibility for their learning and for their actions. Despite the fact that competencies comprise more than just taught knowledge. Not only are individuals expected to be adaptive. value is placed on flexibility. For example. but also innovative. and to change or adapt it. entrepreneurship and personal responsibility. Key competencies involve a mobilisation of cognitive and practical skills. Individuals who are reflective also follow up such thought processes with practice or action. bound together in an integrated approach. Thinking reflectively demands relatively complex mental processes and requires the subject of a thought process to become its object. Moving beyond taught knowledge and skills In most OECD countries. Before looking at the specifics of the competencies in the three clusters shown above. going well beyond the basic reproduction of accumulated knowledge. the DeSeCo Project suggests that a competency can itself be learned within a favourable learning environment. Many scholars and experts agree that coping with today’s challenges calls for better development of individuals’ abilities to tackle complex mental tasks. Reflectiveness – the heart of key competencies An underlying part of this framework is reflective thought and action. assimilate it. . motivation and values.

autonomy and solidarity. Going beyond the either-or: An illustration of reflectiveness The ability to deal with differences and contradictions is found on many lists of key competencies within the economic and educational sector. This requires individuals to reach a level of social maturity that allows them to distance themselves from social pressures. social and power relations. creative abilities and taking a critical stance. Combining key competencies A further link between the specific competencies described below is that in any one context. People living in different situations will draw to varying degrees on various competencies according.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 9 Executive Summary 9 Thus. but that may sometimes only superficially be so. individuals have to learn to think and act in a more integrated way. including their thoughts. one is likely to draw on more than one such competency. technological access. but rather handle tensions – between. taking into account the manifold interconnections and interrelations between positions or ideas that may appear contradictory. Today’s diverse and complex world demands that we do not necessarily rush to a single answer. Key competencies are employed in different combinations in varying contexts Acting autonomously context A context B Using tools interactively Functioning in heterogeneous groups . make independent judgments and take responsibility for their actions. It is not just about how individuals think. In fact. for example to cultural norms. and innovation and continuity – by integrating seemingly contradictory or incompatible goals as aspects of the same reality. take different perspectives. feelings and social relations. reflectiveness implies the use of metacognitive skills (thinking about thinking). configured differently for each particular case. for instance. any given situation or goal may demand a constellation of competencies. Thus. diversity and universality. but also about how they construct experience more generally. to an either-or solution.

Use technology interactively Individuals also need to create and adapt knowledge and skills. C. Current international assessments. Using tools interactively opens up new possibilities in the way individuals perceive and relate to the world. but an instrument in an active dialogue between the individual and his or her environment. such as language. shape how they make sense of and become competent in the world. in multiple situations. www. . socio-cultural and physical tools. These encounters. Reading literacy and mathematical literacy in PISA and numeracy as defined in ALL are illustrations of this key competency.org/all). in turn. as well as physical tools such as computers. symbols and text interactively This key competency concerns the effective use of spoken and written language skills. It is an essential tool for functioning well in society and the workplace and participating in an effective dialogue with others. in particular PISA (www. Why ● ● ● The need to keep up to date with technologies The need to adapt tools to own purposes The need to conduct active dialogue with the world Using tools interactively requires more What competencies than having access to the tool and the A. This requires a familiarity with the tool itself as well as an understanding of how it changes the way one can interact with the world and how it can be used to accomplish broader goals. provide empirical evidence on the salience of key competencies in terms of the ability to interact with tools such as written texts. and knowledge. Individuals encounter the world through cognitive. symbols and texts interactively technical skills required to handle it B. read a text. computation and other mathematical skills. a tool is not just a passive mediator. Use language. In this sense. deal with transformation and change. Terms such as “communication competence” or “literacies” are associated with this key competency. COMPETENCY 1-A The ability to use language.g.org) and the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL. use software).ets.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 10 10 The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies Competency Category 1: Using Tools Interactively The social and professional demands of the global economy and the information society require mastery of socio-cultural tools for interacting with knowledge.pisa. and respond to long-term challenges. conducted by Statistics Canada.oecd. information. Use knowledge and information interactively (e.

cultural. rather than just their ability to exercise cognitive skills as required. As with other tools. An illustration of this key competency is scientific literacy. ● Evaluate the quality. as developed in the framework for the 2006 PISA survey. and ● Organise knowledge and information. technology can be used interactively if users understand its nature and reflect on its potential. including how interested they are in scientific questions. send e-mails and so on. as well as its sources. access information (by making vast amounts of information sources instantly available) and interact with others (by facilitating relationships and networks of people from around the world on a regular basis). Using knowledge and information interactively requires individuals to: ● Recognise and determine what is not known. individuals will need to go beyond the basic technical skills needed to simply use the Internet. ● Identify. A first step is for individuals to incorporate technologies into their common practices. Interactive use of technology requires an awareness of new ways in which individuals can use technologies in their daily lives. Information competence is necessary as a basis for understanding options. and even ideological context and impact. This seeks to explore the degree to which students are willing to engage in and interact with scientific enquiry. and carrying out informed and responsible actions. This key competency requires critical reflection on the nature of information itself – its technical infrastructure and its social. technological advances present individuals with new opportunities to meet demands more effectively in new and different ways. making decisions. COMPETENCY 1-C The ability to use technology interactively Technological innovation has placed new demands on individuals inside and outside the workplace. At the same time. locate and access appropriate information sources (including assembling knowledge and information in cyberspace). forming opinions. individuals need to relate the possibilities embedded in technological tools to their own circumstances and goals. Most importantly. which produces a familiarity with the technology that then allows them to extend its uses. Information and communication technology has the potential to transform the way people work together (by reducing the importance of location). To harness such potential. .Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 11 Executive Summary 11 COMPETENCY 1-B The ability to use knowledge and information interactively Both the increasingly important role of the service and information sectors and the central role of knowledge management throughout today’s societies make it essential for people to be able to use information and knowledge interactively. appropriateness and value of that information.

as existing social bonds weaken and new ones are created by those with the ability to form strong networks. for example. Co-operating well with others requires: ● ● Empathy – taking the role of the other person and imagining the situation from his or her perspective. maintain and manage personal relationships with. beliefs. . Effective management of emotions – being self-aware and able to interpret effectively one’s own underlying emotional and motivational states and those of others. for economic success as changing firms and economies are placing increased emphasis on emotional intelligence. cultures and histories of others in order to create an environment where they feel welcome. This competency assumes that individuals are able to respect and appreciate the values. increasingly. B. They address many of the features associated with terms such as “social competencies”. COMPETENCY 2-A The ability to relate well to others This first key competency allows individuals to initiate. it becomes important to manage interpersonal relationships well both for the benefit of individuals and to build new forms of co-operation. Relate well to others Co-operate.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 12 12 The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies Competency Category 2: Interacting in Heterogeneous Groups Throughout their lives human beings are dependent on ties to others. “intercultural competencies” or “soft skills”. personal acquaintances. for material and psychological survival. individuals recognize that what they take for granted in a situation is not necessarily shared by others. as well as in relation to social identity. As societies become in some ways more fragmented and also more diverse. Relating well is not only a requirement for social cohesion but. work in teams Manage and resolve conflicts The building of social capital is important. This leads to self-reflection. colleagues and customers. One of the potential sources of inequity in the future could be differences in the competence of various groups to build and benefit from social capital. C. upon considering a wide range of opinions and beliefs. Why ● ● ● The need to deal with diversity in pluralistic societies The importance of empathy The importance of social capital What competencies A. are included and thrive. The key competencies in this category are required for individuals to learn. “social skills”. live and work with others. when.

This requires consideration of the interests and needs of others and solutions in which both sides gain. equity). It arises when two or more individuals or groups oppose one another because of divergent needs. workplace or the larger community and society. Conflict is part of social reality.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 13 Executive Summary 13 COMPETENCY 2-B The ability to cooperate Many demands and goals cannot be met by one individual alone but instead require those who share the same interests to join forces in groups such as work teams. Identify areas of agreement and disagreement. recognising that there are different possible positions. The ability to construct tactical or sustainable alliances. . whether in the home. power. The key to approaching conflict in a constructive manner is to recognise that it is a process to be managed rather than seeking to negate it. interests. an inherent part of human relationships. they need to be able to: ● ● ● ● Analyse the issues and interests at stake (e. deciding what they are willing to give up and under what circumstances. and Prioritise needs and goals. division of work. the origins of the conflict and the reasoning of all sides. recognition of merit. Co-operation requires each individual to have certain qualities. management groups. Specific components of this competency include: ● ● ● ● ● The ability to present ideas and listen to those of others. political parties or trade unions. An understanding of the dynamics of debate and following an agenda. The ability to negotiate. and The capacity to make decisions that allow for different shades of opinion. Each needs to be able to balance commitment to the group and its goals with his or her own priorities and must be able to share leadership and to support others. goals or values. COMPETENCY 2-C The ability to manage and resolve conflicts Conflict occurs in all aspects of life. civic movements. For individuals to take an active part in conflict management and resolution.g. Reframe the problem.

to social and economic institutions and to what has happened in the past. In doing so. It assumes the possession of a sound self-concept and the ability to translate needs and wants into acts of will: decision. practices.e. One illustration of this is with respect to work. One needs to recognise how one’s own actions and decisions fit into this wider picture. they need to reflect on their values and on their actions. it requires an awareness of one’s environment. Why ● ● ● The need to realise one’s identity and set goals. Individuals need to create a personal identity in order to give their lives meaning. to society’s norms. interests. It requires individuals to be empowered to manage their lives in meaningful and responsible ways by exercising control over their living and working conditions. This competency requires individuals. That is. culture. limits and needs the workplace. understand its structures.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 14 14 The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies Competency Category 3: Acting Autonomously Acting autonomously does not mean functioning in social isolation. Act within the big picture order to participate effectively in the B. where there are fewer stable. Acting autonomously is particularly important in the modern world where each person’s position is not as well-defined as was the case traditionally. COMPETENCY 3-A The ability to act within the big picture This key competency requires individuals to understand and consider the wider context of their actions and decisions. of social dynamics and of the roles one plays and wants to play. to define how they fit in. to: ● ● Understand patterns. Have an idea of the system in which they exist (i. Defend and assert rights. family life and social life. for instance. This is because they need to develop independently an identity and to make choices. and formal and informal rules and expectations and the roles they play within . in complex world The need to exercise rights and take responsibility The need to understand one’s environment and its functioning What competencies Individuals must act autonomously in A. of social dynamics and of the roles one plays and wants to play. rather than just follow the crowd. autonomy requires an orientation towards the future and an awareness of one’s environment. it requires one to take account of how they relate. In general. for example. lifelong occupations working for a single employer. choice and action. Form and conduct life plans and personal development of society and to function projects well in different spheres of life including C. On the contrary.

time and money). and Monitor progress. but also unwritten social norms. This competency assumes an orientation toward the future. making necessary adjustments as a project unfolds.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 15 Executive Summary 15 ● ● it. It requires individuals to interpret life as an organised narrative and to give it meaning and purpose in a changing environment. Prioritise and refine goals. in an election). to: ● ● ● ● ● ● Define a project and set a goal. The competency implies the ability. interests. moral codes. it also relates to the rights and needs of the individual as a member of the collective (e. actively participating in democratic institutions and in local and national political processes). Know written rules and principles on which to base a case. this competency relates to self-oriented rights and needs.g. Learn from past actions. needs and interests (as well as those of others) and to assert and defend them actively. limits and needs This competency is important for contexts ranging from highly structured legal affairs to everyday instances of assertiveness of individuals’ own interests. Individuals must be able. to: ● ● ● ● Understand one’s own interests (e. On the one hand. on the other hand. Balance the resources needed to meet multiple goals. projecting future outcomes. where life is often fragmented. but also a firm grounding within the realm of the feasible. COMPETENCY 3-C The ability to assert rights.g.g. Although many such rights and needs are established and protected in laws or contracts. including understanding laws and regulations. and Choose between different courses of action by reflecting on their potential consequences in relation to individual and shared norms and goals. manners and protocol. and Suggest arrangements or alternative solutions. Construct arguments in order to have needs and rights recognised. Identify and evaluate both the resources to which they have access and the resources they needs (e. for instance. for instance. it is ultimately up to individuals to identify and evaluate their rights. . COMPETENCY 3-B The ability to form and conduct life plans and personal projects This competency applies the concept of project management to individuals. It complements an understanding of rights with knowledge of the constraints on actions. Identify the direct and indirect consequences of their actions. implying both optimism and potential.

as shown in PISA’s definitions of reading. use and reflect on written texts. Thus. PISA definitions of: Reading literacy The capacity to understand. For example. In particular. new international surveys have for the first time been measuring directly the degree to which young people and adults have the knowledge and skills that they need in order to face life’s challenges. PISA places student performances in reading at one of six proficiency levels: a student with only the ability to make a simple connection between information in a text and common. everyday knowledge is classified at Level 1 on this scale. Even though assessment continues to be carried out primarily through pencil and paper tests and focuses to a large extent on the ability to interact with language. Level 5. in order to understand and help make decisions about the natural world and the changes made to it through human activity. Scientific literacy The capacity to use scientific knowledge. symbols and text (competency 1A above). Mathematical literacy The capacity to identify and understand the role that mathematics plays in the world. a starting point is to assess whether they are capable of reflecting on the deeper meaning and construction of written texts. This gives information on. in order to achieve one’s goals.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 16 16 The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies USING A COMPETENCY FRAMEWORK TO SHAPE ASSESSMENT AND TO INFORM LIFELONG LEARNING International surveys and the assessment of key competencies In recent years. the degree to which students exercise autonomy in learning by controlling the learning process – for example. A further step in assessment is to move beyond identifying cognitive abilities and to measure attitudes and dispositions. . PISA aims to identify the degree to which individuals have the reflective approach to knowledge and learning that underlies the competency framework. PISA and ALL allow the outcomes of learning to be compared across national cultures. and use and engage with mathematics in ways that meet the needs of one’s life as a constructive. concerned and reflective citizen. and participate in society. mathematical and scientific literacies. identify scientific questions and draw evidence-based conclusions. While it is not easy to assess fully the extent to which students are motivated to use knowledge reflectively. develop one’s knowledge and potential. while a student who can critically evaluate hypotheses and deal with concepts that are contrary to expectations can expect to reach the highest level. considerable progress has already been made towards measuring whether young people and adults possess necessary competencies. make well-founded judgments. for example. the PISA assessment of reading reports not only on whether students can locate and interpret information but also on whether they can reflect on and evaluate what they have read. checking what they have learned against their goals. PISA has initially done this primarily by asking students about their attitudes to learning and their motivations in a separate questionnaire.

One way in which such profiles might be produced is by looking at a portfolio of outcomes for each student rather than at individual competencies in isolation. acting autonomously). This understanding has important implications for both education and assessment. interacting in heterogeneous groups. It therefore also provides a single frame of reference for school-based assessments and assessments of adult competencies. . with the possibility of acquiring or losing competence as one grows older. central to the framework. Possible future avenues for such development include: ● ● ● The construction of profiles of competencies. In particular. to reflect the fact that each competency is not used in isolation and that a constellation of competencies is required in any one context. Furthermore. because: ● ● ● Competencies develop and change throughout the lifespan. the ALL survey has experimented with assessing individuals’ ability to co-operate with others. An evolutionary model of human development provides a theoretical foundation for the purpose of adult education. the ability to think and act reflectively. Greater use of information and communication technology in testing to produce more interactive testing instruments. and Developmental psychology shows that competence development does not end at adolescence but continues through the adult years. it offers a compelling rationale for assessing the competencies of individuals throughout life against a common set of criteria.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 17 Executive Summary 17 The 2006 PISA science assessment explores the relevance and importance that students attach to scientific issues in questions posed alongside those that test their cognitive abilities. grows with maturity. working in teams. and Exploration of the contribution of key competencies to social and economic well-being. Moreover. although so far it has been difficult to translate this into a workable assessment within an international survey. Central to the concept of lifelong learning is the assertion that not all of life-relevant competencies can be provided by initial education. The demands on individuals can be expected to change throughout their adult lives as a result of transformations in technology and in social and economic structures. The value of the DeSeCo Project’s overall framework as presented here is that it can provide a reference point for the further development needed to obtain more complete measures of key competencies in all three categories (using tools interactively. Key competencies and lifelong learning The above framework applies equally to the competencies that need to be nurtured at school and those that can be developed throughout the course of life. and thus to design a coherent overall assessment strategy that spans young people and adults.

Statisticians. Trade unions. to produce a coherent and widely shared analysis of which key competencies are necessary for the modern world. Belgium. Contribution the Netherlands. this process started by bringing together existing research and expert opinion. Opinions Psychologists. These phases took place between the inception of the project in late 1997 and the publication of its final report in 2003. fed in different national perspectives and used international symposia to consolidate an agreed framework.) Hogrefe & Huber. multidisciplinary effort among experts and countries The OECD’s DeSeCo Project was designed to bring a wide range of expert and stakeholder opinion together.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 18 18 The Definition and Selection of Key Competencies HOW THIS FRAMEWORK WAS DEVELOPED A collaborative. New Zealand. As illustrated in the diagram. stakeholders Employers. Sequence of the DeSeCo Project’s activities Review of competence-related research Clarification of concepts of competence Sociologists. Finland. Germany. PISA and ALL. Denmark. Historian. It complements and is linked to two large international assessments of these competencies. Sweden. Assessment specialists. Educators of experts and Policy makers. Policy analysts. Philosophers. Switzerland and the United States Consolidation of expert analysis Second international symposium: Builds a consensus Final report in 2003: Key Competencies for a Successful Life and a Well-Functioning Society Dominique Simone Rychen and Laura Hersh Salganik (eds. National and international institutions First international symposium: Establishes network to develop thinking on key competencies Reports from: Austria. France. Göttingen . of country perspectives Norway. Anthropologist. Economists.

. Although this exercise was undertaken in the context of OECD countries. pointing to the need for an overarching framework. The project was able to identify an agreed set of fundamental ideals with which a framework of key competencies needs to be compatible. The initial selection of a set of key competencies by experts. Consultation of countries within the OECD to review how each had defined and selected competencies themselves. basing their choices on research. This allowed the theoretical perspectives of experts to be related to the actual articulation of national education needs and priorities. who worked together to find common ground that could contribute to defining key competencies with policy relevance. This involved scholars. On the other hand. those involved in the DeSeCo Project pointed out that certain countries have been able to identify common values even while acknowledging their differences. This reflects a commonality of aspiration while accepting a diversity of application. It found a considerable degree of inconsistency.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 19 Executive Summary 19 Four major activities were at the heart of the project: ● ● ● ● An analysis of existing studies of competencies considered how concepts had been used and defined. A central question underlying this process was whether it is possible to identify a set of competencies that can be considered as key across countries that differ in culture and perspective. or even across cultures that coexist within individual countries. similar challenges may apply to other countries and close co-operation was therefore sought with UNESCO in defining the framework. A clarification of the concept of competence aimed to build a common understanding of key concepts. On the one hand. experts from many different disciplines. it was necessary to acknowledge how even common values can be interpreted differently in different cultures.

Salganik.deseco.S.) Defining and selecting key competencies (2001) D.oecd.H. Salganik (eds.E.admin.H.) Projects on competencies in the OECD context: Analysis of theoretical and conceptual foundations (1999) L. U. Salganik. McLaughlin (eds. D.ch Key DeSeCo publications Key competencies for a successful life and a well-functioning society (2003) D.) Contributions to the second DeSeCo symposium (2003) D.org/edu/statistics/deseco www. Rychen and L. and M.S.Mep_interieur 27/05/05 9:17 Page 20 Visit the DeSeCo Project on the Web www. Rychen. L.H.H.S. Moser and J. Rychen and L. Salganik (eds. Rychen.S. Konstant .

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